Two Sessions 2021 (Lianghui)
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China wants to have a “world-class military” by 2050. Photo: AFP

Xi Jinping tells China’s military ‘be prepared to respond’ in unstable times

  • Stresses need for ‘high-level strategic deterrence’ and more tech innovation
  • President’s remarks follow defence minister’s call for PLA to be battle ready amid ‘high-risk phase’

China’s military must be “prepared to respond” to complex and difficult situations as the country grapples with security challenges, President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday.

Xi, who also heads the Central Military Commission, made the remarks at a panel discussion attended by armed forces representatives during the annual legislative sessions in Beijing.

“The current security situation of our country is largely unstable and uncertain,” Xi said. “The entire military must coordinate the relationship between capacity building and combat readiness, be prepared to respond to a variety of complex and difficult situations at any time, resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests, and provide strong support for the comprehensive construction of a modern socialist state.”

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Xi also emphasised the need for “high-level strategic deterrence and a joint combat system”, and more technological innovation in the military.

General Wei Fenghe said national security had entered a “high-risk phase”. Photo: AP

The president’s remarks came after Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe on Saturday called for the military to boost combat readiness, saying China’s national security had “entered a high-risk phase”.

“We are facing mounting tasks in national defence … and we must comprehensively improve military training and preparedness for battle so as to increase our strategic capabilities to prevail over our strong enemies,” Wei told military delegates at a meeting on the sidelines of the legislative sessions.

“The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is at a critical stage where we are facing unprecedented opportunities as well as unprecedented challenges,” he said. Wei also warned that US containment efforts would “last throughout the process of China’s national rejuvenation”.


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The question of how the People’s Liberation Army should handle security risks dominated the meeting on Saturday as the country faces challenges on multiple fronts – from its Himalayan border dispute with India to simmering tensions with Japan over the East China Sea and rivalry with the United States, including over technology.
Its deep rift with the US tops the list of geopolitical risks, particularly tensions over Taiwan and the South China Sea that some fear could lead to military conflict as both powers step up air and naval operations in the region. Beijing recently released footage of its military conducting landing drills in the disputed South China Sea, days after US reconnaissance operations and a Taiwanese exercise simulating a mainland Chinese attack on its reefs.
On Sunday, Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned Washington not to cross the “red line” on Taiwan, saying there was “no room for compromise or concession on the Taiwan issue”.

At the military meeting, Major General Yang Cheng – who served in the 73rd Group Army whose primary mission was presumed to be the conquest of Taiwan – said the PLA needed to strengthen its early warning and reconnaissance efforts and consolidate control over the country’s borders.

Zhao Baorui, political commissar of the Western Theatre Command which covers the frontier with India, also called for more military funds for the border region to speed up construction of airports, roads and training bases.

Breaking the US’ “chokehold” on technology was another key discussion topic at the meeting. Navy chief Vice-Admiral Shen Jinlong said that to win a future war, China’s military must strengthen its ability to use innovative technologies and that more state support was needed for key industries and projects.

The PLA has undergone a sweeping overhaul in recent years and its modernisation drive is ongoing – President Xi has said it should be completed by 2035, with a target of having a “world-class military” by 2050.

Beijing has announced moderate growth in its defence budget of 6.8 per cent in 2021, but said it would boost spending on science and technology research and development by more than 7 per cent in the next five years. Areas targeted for more funds include semiconductors, quantum and cloud computing, and artificial intelligence for both military and commercial use, according to the draft five-year plan.